Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It really is a privilege to rise here in this House and represent the residents of District 18 Rustico-Emerald.
Last night was a big night in New Glasgow. There was a public meeting to talk about the Millvale power transmission lines. Kudos to all of the concerned residents that came out and fought to have their voices heard. Like I said, it’s a privilege to even play a small part in that.
Thank you to the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment for sending some representation there and kudos to Maritime Electric for really lending an ear and listening. I’m optimistic that there will be a working group that comes together with Maritime Electric to find a path forward that will meet most concerns.
Also, just wanted to recognize a couple of milestone birthdays in District 18; Dean Gallant, heavily involved with North Shore minor hockey is turning the big 40, and Velda Bertram who is heavily involved with the Central Queens United Church, that’s how I know her very well, is turning 70.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker
Response to the Speech from the Throne
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It is my pleasure today to rise and speak to the Speech From the Throne, the second in as many years.
Last time we responded to the Speech From the Throne. I read it through and I was full of optimism, and I thought to myself, if I hold this government to account and they bring in some of what they’re talking about here, then indeed we will have a betterIsland.
What I’ve seen, of course, since then is last year the first thing was an attempt to cut the number of teachers with the excuse that there was decreasing enrollment in education when in fact there was an increased enrollment in education. So thankfully the government decided to reverse the cuts and they moved forward.
I went and I checked myself and I said there’s going to be more work to do here in opposition than perhaps I initially thought. Since then I’ve realized, as the saying goes, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
I’m reading the Speech From the Throne this time around, and although I am a positive person by nature I’m a little more skeptical about some of the statements in here. I’m finding they’re very general and vague in nature and probably by design.
For example, when you say:
“The Standing Committees have been rejuvenated. The discourse and debate in the House has been robust and collegial. The work of governance has been active and productive. In this session, My Government will continue to advance its agenda of building increased opportunities for engagement and prosperity for all parts and people of Prince Edward Island.”
“Our work in this session will be focused on growth and rejuvenation of our population and communities, on building prosperity for an increasing number of Islanders, and engaging Prince Edward Islanders as we continue to modernize government.”
There are a lot of buzz words in there. A lot of questions, more question than answers. These are big statements. Big statements. Coincidentally the initials BS, and so I want to look at that and there is a lot of BS in here.
An Hon. Member: Oh, come on.
Mr. Trivers: So I look at this now, a lot of big statements-
Speaker: Hon. Member from Rustico-Emerald.
Mr. Trivers: Yes.
Speaker: I’ll ask you to withdraw that statement. We all know what you’re talking about and that’s–
Mr. Trivers: Big statements, Mr. Speaker?
Speaker: No, I know what you mean. So just–
Mr. Trivers: I’ll withdraw. If there’s any additional meaning you’re assigning to that, Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw that, yes, absolutely.
Speaker: Okay. Thank you
Mr. Trivers: When I responded to the Speech From the Throne last time one of the things that I – this was shortly after the provincial election, and the biggest issue at the door was trust. Islanders had really lost trust in government, they lost trust in politicians, and it was something that the government really had to overcome. Trust is a very fragile thing. I know because I’ve been in the position where I’ve lost people’s trust and people have lost my trust. If you’re open and transparent that’s the first step to gaining the trust back.
I wanted to talk a little bit about maybe moving from these vague and general and grandiose statements, as opposed to big
statements, and how maybe this government could be more open and transparent. I’d just like to point out some areas where open and transparency was not present and where maybe perhaps this government would like to try and improve.
I’d like to start with the capital budget. I think I’ve said this before. I got quite upset when the capital budget was on the floor last year because there was a big binder in front of the Minister of Finance and it had details in there. When we asked for the details they were provided, flip to that right page and exactly what projects were going to be undertaken were known, and I asked the Minister of Finance: Why don’t you simply take your binder and all the projects with the detailed breakdown and make that available to Islanders? Then they’ll know what our taxpayer dollars are being spent on.
An Hon. Member: That would be too open and transparent.
Mr. Trivers: It was taken under advisement but I haven’t seen it yet and I don’t know if I ever will see it. This is not being open and transparent. It’s very simple. It’s sharing information, it’s letting taxpayers know where their dollars are being spent, hard-earned taxpayer dollars.
Talking about hard-earned taxpayer dollars, I just wanted to make the point that the only way our economy can grow is through the private sector. It can’t grow through government, it can’t grow by taxing people and then taking that money and giving it out to other people. The economy stays the same size.
People who are out there working hard in the private sector, especially the entrepreneurs – and I know the Minister of
Workforce and Advanced Learning understands this – they’re the ones who are going to make our economy grow and that’s
where we need focus and we need to spend those hard – earned taxpayer dollars very carefully.
Another example, and perhaps to some a smaller example, of openness and transparency that happened right around the time of the last election was the roundabout in Stanley Bridge. This is something that is near and dear to my heart. It’s near and dear to the hearts of people in District 18 Rustico-Emerald. In fact, you might even say it’s becoming a bit of folklore.
At one of our Progressive Conservative fundraisers I thought I would take the song from Stan Rogers, “The Mary Ellen Carter,” and write a few lyrics to that and I thought it would be a good way to have some fun. But oy oh boy –
An Hon. Member: Can you sing it?
Mr. Trivers: I will not sing that song today though thank you for the request. I am not doing any requests today. Thank you. I got a request to sing “Far, Far Away,” that‘s the popular one I get a lot. Anyway, it got thousands and thousands of hits on social media. I think it’s approaching 10,000 hits.
Mr. Aylward: Internationally.
Mr. Trivers: This wasn’t a credit to my musicianship or to my singing, this was a credit to the message that it was sending. The roundabout in Stanley Bridge and the discussions about it are not because the roundabout is inherently evil or people are inherently against roundabouts. It was because the citizens in the community woke up one day and they read the newspaper and there was a tender posted for a roundabout in their community and they had not heard a single thing about it.
That’s where we need to work on our openness and transparency, and I’ll talk a little bit later here on modernizing government and some of the tools that you can use.
To the Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning I’m going to give you a critique on workpei.ca and some of the improvements you can make there as well.
Most recently – and this is along exactly the same lines as roundabouts – last night we had well over 150 people come out,
concerned community citizens from all across the areas that were impacted – St. Ann’s, Hope River, Hunter River, Millvale
– and talk about the power transmission lines and the new substation that’s going in.
Now, the biggest problem with the power transmission lines and the substation was not that people don’t want power. They understand we need power. They support that. It was simply that the Planning Act, as well as the government processes, is not
open and transparent.
There’s the Minister of Communities, Land and Environment. This is great. Good to see you back in for this part of my response.
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: I’m so glad to see that the Planning Act is referenced here in the Speech From the Throne because it needs a lot of work. The first thing you need to address in there is making the planning processes open and transparent. Because right now we’re relying on municipalities to have their own processes to communicate and that’s working fairly well. But when you look at unincorporated areas, like Millvale area, St. Ann’s, Hope River, there’s really not a good vehicle for planning changes to be communicated to them. In this particular case with the power transmission lines it was brought in, almost literally, in the middle of the night. I would encourage you to take a look at that Planning Act.
It’s really interesting because, if you look at the section that talks about incorporating into a municipality, there is a spot there that looks into interim rules you can put in place. There the language and the legislation is very clear about public consultations, what is allowed to happen, how long they can be in place. But in the rest of the Planning Act that is totally absent. Really looking forward to seeing that improved.
I wanted to comment a little bit on how IRAC plays into the process with the approval of Maritime Electric projects and the level of detail required in that and, again, how that’s communicated. I think something really needs to be taken a look at. This is all about openness, transparency, and being accountable.
The next thing I wanted to talk about – and, again, we’re talking about openness, transparency and trust. Trust is something
that’s easy to lose. When you have a presentation that’s being made by a government department publicly, at the annual meeting of the federation of agriculture, and that presentation is refused to be shared and the FOIPP requests from an
MLA – in this case, I had to issue a FOIPP request to get that presentation – there’s an issue, there’s a problem with openness and transparency. I’d like to believe that the presentation with the audio, which was presumed to be the problem – you can’t have the presentation without the audio, otherwise it could be misconstrued – I’d like to believe that that presentation was coming even if I hadn’t issued the FOIPP request, but I’m not so sure that’s the case.
I just wanted to point that out as another case where you can be more open and transparent as a government. Let’s take your
presentations, let’s publish them online, let’s make them available. We’ve seen some good examples of that with the water act.
The water act consultations were great, I thought, that way.
I wanted to move on. Some other examples of where you could improve and make government more open and transparent. One is the contaminated sites listing and registry online. Right now if you go there and you want to find out whether you’re
building next to a contaminated site, the first thing you need is your property ID. You need to type in the property ID. Then it’ll tell you whether the property you’re going on is contaminated, but it won’t tell you if you’re next to one. So you have to type in every property ID to find out if indeed it’s a contaminated site and what’s going on. There’s a huge opportunity there to – and I’m hoping that’s part of the modernization of government, to make it easy to find that out. We see a similar thing, and this has been in there for a long time as well, with the corporate registry. If you want to find out all of the companies that, for example, the Minister of Workforce and Advanced Learning is on the board of directors for, you can’t just type in his name and get a list of companies. You have to go and you have to know the name of each company and then go look at the board of directors. It’s simple things like that.
I’m going to talk about open data here a little bit later as well and how that could help. Of course there are other things that we’ve been talking about publicly for some time now. It’s been part of this government’s problem since, well, practically since 2007.
We’re talking about making the list of IIDI and Finance PEI loans open and publicly available. Going backwards, we want to
know who has the loans for how much. I’m glad to see that you’re not hiding behind legal any longer and you’d made a commitment to make that available. As well as, of course, the loan write-offs, write-downs, and cancellations. That’s positive. But we’re still waiting for it. Hopefully that’s coming soon.
The other thing is – well, here’s another example. There was the economic forum that happened this year. I think I was the
only one from the opposition that was there. But there’s a reason for that, because they’re busy working with their constituents out in their districts. Why don’t you put the economic forum online and allow people to log in, ask questions?
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: No, no. I don’t mean publish the presentation online. I mean stream the event live online –
An Hon. Member: It is streamed (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: – with the ability to ask questions and have two-way interaction.
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: When I was there, there were a limited number of questions and they were only for people that were in the room. I think there’s room for improvement. Just saying.
Mr. Myers: And you got in trouble for asking questions. (Indistinct) I challenge you.
Mr. Trivers: Why don’t we talk about open data? This is something – I’m not sure how many of the government have actually
looked into this, the government members, and understand what open data really is. I know there’s some over there that have
some sort of an information systems background. The idea here is not just simply taking data and publishing it to a website for someone to go to the website and visit and read. The idea is exposing the data so that software developers can grab it and slice it and dice it and present it and use it to do new and innovative things. For example, I would love it if I could just type in the name of a road and then I could see the whole history of maintenance on that road. Sort it by the type of maintenance even, perhaps. If we record that data – right now, it’s up in someone’s brain. If I call into the Department of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy and we got a road supervisor that’s been there for a long time, they’ll say:
Yeah, I remember that was 25 years ago was the last time that we looked at the Trout River Road, the clay road that has been
having all the troubles this spring. It’s about time to do that again. Wouldn’t it be nice if that – and I’m not saying that government even has to go in and provide the reports, just make the data available. Private sector will come in and be able to do that.
Mr. Aylward: Great idea.
An Hon. Member: Hear, hear!
Mr. Trivers: Yes. And roads are just one example. You can do that with environmental data. Then you end up with a
Mr. Aylward: Positive. Positive ideas.
Mr. Trivers: –where you can subscribe to a list. It doesn’t have to be the government that implements this. This is not more tax dollars. This is a case where you expose environmental data. These are, for example, the measurements of oxygen in the different rivers around the province, and levels of oxygen. You can subscribe to a mailing list. As a software developer I’ll grab the data. I’ll mail it out to the people on the mailing list. These are some examples, and I’m sure you can come up with other ones. Perhaps even some better ones. Another example of openness and transparency and inclusiveness as well was the child protection services consultations that took place. We had an excellent presentation from child protection services in our caucus. It was just super. I asked them: How come you didn’t come and present in my area? They said: We were in Charlottetown and Summerside. But now I requested they come out to my area and they’re going to do that. I just want you to be more proactive. I want you to think outside of Charlottetown and Summerside. I want you to think about the whole Island. I want you to make sure that the information that government has is available to all Islanders.
I think I will talk about workpei.ca a little bit right now since this is a new initiative. The idea of workpei.ca is to provide a portal for people to go to find out about jobs on Prince Edward Island. It’s built using WordPress, which is a technology I’m intimately familiar with. I actually use the Divi Builder, which is one of my favourite plugins and theme packages. As well, they’re even using FacetWP to slice and dice the data. It’s fantastic.
What I couldn’t believe was that really, though, it’s a front-end to the Canada jobs listings. I’m hoping this is just a work in progress because right now you click on the job and you go right to the Canada job site. It doesn’t even open in a new window. You’re gone from WorkPEI and never to be back again.
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct) smoke and mirrors.
Mr. Trivers: Yeah, smoke and mirrors a little bit.
Mr. Aylward: It’s like plagiarism.
Mr. Trivers: I tell you, I have to give kudos to the developer because they did a good job. It looks fantastic. They’re doing some good marketing work there.
An Hon. Member: He did it himself.
Mr. Trivers: There are lots of videos.
An Hon. Member: You did it yourself.
Mr. Trivers: I mean, I might have been in conflict of interest. I probably could have given you a good deal on that website
myself, but –
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct).
Mr. MacKay: We know how the jobs work. You(Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: I want to move on from openness to transparency, but I just want to urge this government to really think: How
can we take the data that we collect, how can we make that available to Islanders to use and learn from? One thing I have talked about a lot – I think that the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy has gotten my message – is that roads need to be a priority here on Prince Edward Island.
Mr. R. Brown: They are a priority.
Mr. Trivers: They are a priority? She needs to fight for more money in her budget because we need to have more money put
into roads on this Island. This is why Islanders pay their taxes. There’s health, there’s education, and there are roads. Those are the top priorities in my mind. That’s what my district’s residents are telling me and we’re really seeing it this year with the lack of frost on the roads. If the Minister of Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy asked every MLA in this House to put together a five-year plan for the roads –
Mr. R. Brown: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: Maintenance –
Mr. Aylward: You want to talk to Clifford. He does your streets.
Mr. Trivers: I, for one, did put that plan together and I’m looking for about 32 kilometres over five years.
Ms. Biggar: Is that all?
Mr. Trivers: I thought it was fairly reasonable. I said we could just have 12 kilometres the first year and five for the four years after that. I’m thinking, based on what I have seen in the history of what has been done on the roads in Prince Edward Island in previous administrations, that’s really not all that unrealistic. With a little bit of planning and some fighting for budget for the roads, that’s what my residents want, I think that if you prioritize your spending properly then we’ll be good to go, honestly.
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct)
Mr. Trivers: Yeah. I want to urge this government to spend more money on roads and prioritize making roads. Roads are important. They’re not only important for individual Islanders to get to and from work but they are extremely important for industry as well.
Now, I wanted to talk a little bit about the economy. This is something that this government is focusing on and it is good to
see that. I think giving out loans is an important thing. The process of choosing recipients based on business case is something fraught with peril, is what I’ll say, because you’re picking winners, and every time you give money to one company it means you’re hurting their competitors because you’re giving them an advantage. It should be done with prudence and you should also make sure that it’s done with on-Island companies, not off-Island companies, and it’s done in areas that are going to have a direct impact on the Island economy.
I wanted to mention – thank you very much to the government for listening to my idea on micro-loans and implementing that. I think I mentioned that in my last response to the Speech From the Throne so it’s great to see that in place. Kudos for that. Hopefully we will see some uptake and we’ll see some good impact on the economy. I wanted to bring up, again, the idea of using tax credits instead of loans. I talked about this before but I really think it’s an important idea. I wanted to drive it home, especially for small businesses. I think the Leader of the Third Party mentioned this.
We need to build small and help small. That fits the culture of our Island and that’s where we’re going to have the biggest bang for our buck. This whole idea of trying to attract big corporations here that are headquartered off-Island, giving them a bunch of money, giving them incentives, only to have them pull out when those end is not the right way to go. Tax credits for sole proprietors–sole proprietors are people who are running a business but claiming the revenue under their personal taxes. Just wanted to make sure you understood that.
Sole proprietors – if you gave them tax credits for the money they are making from off-Island sales then that would be huge
incentives for people to come and set up sole proprietorships on PEI. We’re talking about boosting export revenue, which is of course one of the key priorities of this government, so I have been working on some draft legislation for that and I’m working to get support for that, hoping to have a working group together sometime soon with various different interested parties from the business community and the Island community in general, and perhaps even from the government’s side of the House. This is not something I want to make into a partisan issue.
This is something that I want to see pass because I really think it could bring people to this Island and repatriation, in particular. People who have spent some time and made money off-Island, Islanders who left and really want to come back, but they are just looking for that extra incentive to come back. They’re saying: Maybe the personal tax exemption amount is really low, but they’re going to let me keep my provincial taxes as part of a tax credit from my business when I have those exports. I wanted to bring that up.
Going through the Speech From the Throne here I’m looking at a lot of the grandiose statements and they raise more questions
than they do answers. I’m interested to find out – maybe you guys can help me out with this – perhaps I just need to do my research, but what is social enterprise?
Mr. Myers: It’s made up.
Ms. Biggar: It’s not Question Period.
Mr. Myers: Something you made up.
Mr. Trivers: Yeah, so I’m hoping that this government will let – I’m thinking that the taxpayers of Prince Edward Island
want to know what social enterprise is as well. Then when you make a statement like: “We will work to provide the necessary
environment for the provision of seed capital for start-up ventures so that entrepreneurs have the early support they require to succeed” – I think you’re talking about venture capital there, right? You’re talking about getting venture capital in to Prince Edward Island? Kind of like what they have done with the PEI BioAlliance, but you want to spread it out to other sectors? That’s what I’m hoping, anyhow.
One thing, when it comes to health and wellness, probably the two things – or the thing I hear the most is wait times, and I
know this is nothing new. People have been complaining about the wait times in emergency rooms and for specialists for a
long time, and here’s a solution that I’m floating with Health PEI. It doesn’t necessarily shorten the wait times, but it can actually sort of treat the symptoms of wait times and make people more comfortable while they’re waiting.
Right now it’s confusing oftentimes when you’re in an emergency room. You don’t know when you’re going to be called, why you’re waiting so long. You may be taken to an examination room and you’re sitting in there for hours and you’re wondering:
When? Did they forget about me? You poke your head out through the door and there’s an empty hallway or there are some nurses around and you’re like: What is going on?
If there was someone there to check on the patients every 20 minutes or so, just go and say: How are things going? Here are some tissues for you. Here’s a warm blanket. Right now there was just a car accident, or the reason you’re waiting so long is – I think it would go a long way to improving the perception of wait times within the emergency room, and it would get away from that feeling of being left alone and not knowing whether you were forgotten about.
This is something I have actually mentioned to Health PEI and I’m going to check up with them in four to six months and see if that comes along. But since Minister of Health and Wellness might have a little more pull than I do over there perhaps I would like to float – maybe you could look at that.
An Hon. Member: It’s a good idea.
Mr. Trivers: Yeah.
An Hon. Member: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: That’s the thing. (Indistinct) talked about being positive. I am a positive guy by nature. I’m not –
Mr. Myers: He is.
Mr. Trivers: I’m not talking about just the positive where like –
Mr. MacKay: That’s what we call him in caucus, positive Brad.
Mr. Trivers: My kids watch the show Scooby Doo, Mr. Speaker, I don’t know if you’ve seen that. There’s this one that’s their favourite. It’s the world wrestling federation Scooby Doo –
Mr. Myers: Oh, that’s a good one.
Mr. Trivers: It’s excellent. And it’s a full-length – a feature film, really. There’s one guy and he has his headset on and he’s jogging along and he says: Who’s awesome? I’m awesome. Who’s awesome? I’m awesome. There’s that sort of positivity,
which is good, but you have to have that foundation to work on because you can’t have – you can’t, like, just on positivity, you have to put in the hard work as well.
That’s reminds me of another story about that. There was a gentleman who was quite religious and he prayed: Dear God, please let me win the lottery, I’ve been good and faithful all my life, I’m nearly at the end, please let me win the lottery. He prayed and he prayed and he didn’t win the lottery. This happened the next week. He prayed and he prayed and he didn’t win the lottery. Again, he didn’t – and finally a voice came out of the clouds and said: Please, please buy a lottery ticket.
This is what I’m talking about. You can think positive and you can do all the right things, but unless you put in some work and you have that base – and this where some of the criticisms are coming from, the opposition here. We need to be realistic, we need to put in that base and then think positive, as well.
Another thing, we really need to emphasize our information technology sector. I don’t mean that as in we need a whole bunch of software developers here, although that’s important. The fact is that the Internet really is the gateway to the rest of the world and we need to focus on ensuring that Islanders are able to take advantage of that.
I believe the company is Bohemian Findings, which is out in St. Peters, absolutely phenomenal story of success. That’s the sort of thing we need to encourage. There’s not a lot of government money going into Bohemian Findings either.
Mr. Myers: No.
Mr. Trivers: No, they did this themselves.
Mr. Myers: Built it from the ground up.
Mr. Trivers: We would know if, of course, loans were published.
Mr. Myers: Oh, yeah.
Mr. Trivers: But I’m pretty sure there’s not. They started in their basement and they grew their way up. They started as sole
proprietors, I think, and now they’re moving into that space where they’re growing enough they can be incorporated. That ties
back to that sole proprietor tax credit idea to encourage those sorts of businesses. Using the Internet as the gateway to the
world, we’ve got all kinds of products and services that are produces on Prince Edward Island that are top-notch, best in the world.
These aren’t products that are going to compete on a commodity basis. These are products that are niche products. There’s a
fellow in North Rustico who makes custom-made guitars. These are $3,000, $5,000 guitars. He makes a good living at it because he’s selling into that niche market. Competing on the commodities is not where we need to go. We need to look at those niche markets, focusing on the Internet as the gateway to the world.
One thing, I did want to mention as well, moving on a little bit here, is the fact that tourism really was only mentioned once that I could find in the Speech From the Throne sort of in passing. I believe the actual quote was something on the nature of, “In our core sectors farming, fishing, food processing and tourism, My Government will advance opportunities…” etc. I just want to emphasize that tourism is a core sector. We need to have a plan in place. We want to know what’s going on.
District 18 Rustico-Emerald, which I represent, includes Cavendish, North Rustico, Emerald, New London, and some of these core areas of Prince Edward Island. I’m interested to know what the plan is for tourism, what sort of help is going on. I’m really encouraged how the tourism industry is helping itself and I think that’s a good thing, but if you are going to encourage the tourism industry to help itself and say: That’s where we want to go – just let them know, let’s be open and transparent about it, have a plan.
In fact, there was a business expo just last week in North Rustico and it was absolutely fantastic. It was the Central Coastal Tourism Partnership Inc. that sponsored it. They had roundtable discussions and they said: This is what we should do, we need to get our tourism businesses together so we know who each other are. They had one afternoon in at the Watermark Theatre, they partnered with the Watermark, and they gave it to them for free. They did presentations to each other. They said: Man, you know what? I had no idea what Knit Pickers did over there. It was really phenomenal. The new solar taxi business – it was phenomenal because they can actually refer people from one business to another. These are the simple things that the industry associations are taking on.
I’ve heard other suggestions for improvement in tourism that I’m sure the minister of tourism has heard as well. There are so many different industry associations that are lobbying the government. There are too many, they need to consolidate. Hopefully, that’s part of the plan. I can’t tell from the Speech From the Throne but I’m grasping here.
One of the reasons that I’m so positive and one of the reasons that sometimes it’s hard for me to get up and criticize all the time is because I’m a solutions guy.
That’s because when I ran I expected to be in government and we’re going to do that someday very soon.
Mr. J. Brown: You don’t want to be over there? Is that what you’re saying?
Mr. Trivers: I do want to be over there.
Mr. Myers: Just not with those clowns.
Mr. Trivers: Exactly. I’ve got lots of great ideas. Thank you for listening.
Mr. Myers: You probably want to be over there, too, do you?
Mr. Trivers: Going back to health and wellness. I wanted to talk about the ideas, perhaps with telemedicine, as well. This is
something that I mentioned in 2011 when I ran, in my nomination speech. E-health or telemedicine is something that the Minister of Health and Wellness – I know that there’s been some projects on it. I mean, this was 2011, that was a long time ago now when it first came up as a hot topic. I believe it is the stroke unit that is starting to use it. I think this would be a great way, especially for young families in rural areas, to allow their kids to be looked at by a doctor without having to take a half day off work to take them in, or a full day. I would urge you to explore telemedicine and expand into that area. I think it would allow you to make better use of the doctors that are here. They could see more patients and be – everyone would be more efficient.There would be less money spent on fuel, spent on transportation, and less time. It would just be a win-win situation.
Speaking of energy and fuel, I know this is flowing just perfectly, isn’t it? Yes. One thing that concerned me was that the Office of Energy Efficiency has no incentives in place that dealt with transportation. Transportation produces 40% of our carbon emissions.
An Hon. Member: Seventy-five.
Mr. Trivers: Seventy-five? Okay, I stand corrected. We’re spending a lot of time on heating and we’re trying to improve houses, which is great and there are some incentives there, but we really need to concentrate on transportation.
Renewable energy, we seem to think that we’ve hit some sort of limit, that’s the message I’m getting, speaking of positivity. I’m getting the message that we’ve hit some sort of limit and it’s going to be hard to, especially grow our renewable energy, but there’s one huge untapped area and this is with solar panels, photovoltaic solar panels. There was a backgrounder presentation for the new energy strategy that had come out. Chris Ortenburger had put it in her newsletter. I think it was an early draft, but it did mentioned a figure of $3 per watt to install a solar panel system. I know I just put in a 19.25 kilowatt system at my home and it was only $2.60 per watt, so there was a disconnect there. Solar panels are not as expensive as people think they are. In fact, there are companies out there like Renewable Lifestyles who are bending over backwards to find ways to make installing solar panels affordable.
We had Steve Howard from Renewable Lifestyles in that standing committee on energy and he talked about it, but he didn’t
get into specifics. I wanted to share this with you now because I do have a chance to speak with you and a very attentive audience here.
What he did was he worked and he started a new company called Solar Island Electric. He set up that company so it’s RRSP eligible. Not only that, he set it up so it’s also eligible for the equity tax credit that the province offers. You can invest in your RRSPs and get 35% back through the (Indistinct) of the equity tax credit up to $7,000 per year. It’s phenomenal.
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: But you know what? This is where the government can help without spending any money. How come we’re not trumpeting that from the rooftops? How come we’re not saying: This is a fantastic way to install solar panels? By my calculations, I think I can get them at 25% of the cost, a 75% savings. Suddenly they become very affordable. I would encourage the government members to look into this.
When it comes to the Office of Energy Efficiency, one area that they can make huge strides without a lot of expense is providing the tools for people to make decisions like this, like whether solar panels are going to be cost-effective for them and save them money, not to mention the environmental savings. But if there was a tool on there where you could plug in the amount of electricity you use it would tell you the number of solar panels, and then it would tell you what the actual cost was based on investing in your RRSP. I think it’s something easily doable, totally.
Also, when you’re thinking of buying a hybrid car, for example, electric cars are coming. They’re getting there. The technology is almost there. But let’s look at hybrid vehicles. I drive a Toyota Prius and we looked at it and we did the math. I didn’t buy just because I care about the environment and renewable energy. I bought it because financially it makes sense. We need to help people make those calculations and see that over the long term buying some of these items like solar panels and Toyota Prius actually does make good financial sense. This isn’t just about saving the environment. This is about actually putting more money in your pocket. I would encourage the government to work with the Office of Energy Efficiency to try and put some of those tools in place.
One thing I wanted to talk about as well was the focus on post-secondary education, advanced learning. Obviously, it’s a fantastic thing and it is our road to the future. If we want to compete in some of these areas with the rest of the world we need highly educated people. It’s good to see that there’s some money in there providing some loan relief for students and some terms that are more favourable.
But one thing that I think you could do without spending a lot of taxpayer dollars and helping Island businesses is to really push co-op programs. I went to the University of Waterloo and that was where the co-op programs started in Canada, one of the founders. This is a fantastic way to not only help businesses and get students into the workforce so they know what they’re getting into and they understand their field, and it’s not just pure academics detached from where the rubber meets the road out in the private sector, but they also get to earn money and pay for their education.
It’s a four-month on, four-month off rotation typically. You go to school for four months, you work for four months. You go to school, you work. When you graduate the amount of your debt is much lower. I would really encourage that, it’s something
that I honestly haven’t heard many people talk about yet and it’s definitely not something I’ve seen in the Speech From the
Throne, so I wanted to bring that forward.
In closing, Mr. Speaker –
Ms. Biggar: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: Pardon me?
Mr. R. Brown: You lost your charge, did you?
Mr. Trivers: I’m trying to give some positive feedback to you here and some good solutions. I was about to go onto a rather
partisan diatribe but I decided perhaps that was not the best way to go.
Mr. Myers: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: Yeah, are you sure about that now?
Some Hon. Members: (Indistinct).
Mr. Trivers: Well, all right. When a new Islander is navigating the seas to come to Prince Edward Island – and by that I mean the virtual seas – they’re sailing their ship down. First of all they see the beautiful red cliffs and they’re nearing the Island, this beautiful Island. As they get there eventually they start meeting the people and they wonder – and they see just how incredible the people are.
Then they start looking for a job and they say: This is a little more challenging now, there’s a few rocks coming out of the water, and we’re in a bit of a stormy seas here. Then they decide: Maybe I’m going to start my own business. That’s when they really run into a big bank of fog. Suddenly the sun dims out and there’s this thick fog that the ship is sailing through and it’s raining and there’s some rocks.
This is a FOG bank, this is a friends of government bank, and this is a problem. What we need to do is we need to make sure
that when we’re helping business we don’t hurt other businesses and that we’re not giving money to friends of government. We
need to be impartial. I urge this government to make sure that it is fair and impartial so that the ship does not get wrecked in the FOG bank.
In concluding, I probably have some more things I could talk about but I think I will leave it there. I wanted to say that although I have high expectations from the Speech From the Throne my expectations have been tempered a lot since I responded to the firstone because I’m realizing that there’s a lot of jargon that doesn’t necessarily translate into real action. The challenge to this government really is to show all Islanders and the opposition that they are being positive, they are following through and that the plan – and really, they need to expand on the plans that they have because it’s not clear what they are in the Speech From the Throne, and really show Islanders where the rubber is going to meet the road and we’re going to solve the big problems that this Island has.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.